Since May, six associate vice presidents have worked alongside the McMaster Students Union board of directors to help them achieve their platforms and bring forth their own ideas, whether that be advocating on Parliament Hill or supporting MSU employees.
Stephanie Bertolo, a fourth-year Arts and Science student, works alongside the MSU vice president (Education) as associate vice president (Municipal Affairs) to help him advocate on behalf of students in local politics.
“[It’s] a lot of meetings,” Bertolo said. “I go to the community association meetings for Ainslie Wood/Westdale. It’s going to city hall and seeing what they’re up to with decisions that affect students.”
This is the first year the MSU has had associate vice presidents. In previous years, they had commissioners who were elected by the Student Representative Assembly. Instead of an internal election, associate vice presidents are hired.
Although commissioners and associate vice presidents fulfill a similar niche within the union, associate vice presidents are expected to take on more responsibility, as demonstrated in their pay. Associate vice presidents are also expected to take on more advocacy than commissioners.
“Local politics [are] a little more down-to-earth. More citizens are invested in it because it’s so ingrained in their daily life that they’re out delegating and they get really emotional about these things”
Associate vice president
Generally speaking, associate vice presidents are expected to work 12 to 14 hours a week, whereas commissioners were paid for six to 10 hours a week.
As associate vice president (Municipal Affairs), Bertolo works with the board of directors and the MSU’s education and advocacy team to improve student life on a local level.
In the past few months, Bertolo focused on advocating for better transit in Hamilton and a landlord licensing program. Alongside the vice president (Education), Bertolo is a part of city hall subcommittees and will give delegations at various municipal meetings on behalf of the MSU.
“[Local politics are] a little more down-to-earth. More citizens are invested in it because it’s so ingrained in their daily life that they’re out delegating and they get really emotional about these things,” said Bertolo. “You don’t really see that in the other forms of politics.”
Bertolo’s job is not without challenges, one of which being the constraints she feels as a student doing advocacy.
“You want to do so much, but you’re a little bit constrained by time. And that also factors into how you feel like you should be doing those things and that you should be representing the MSU, but you just can’t do everything,” said Bertolo.
Bertolo, however, is completely supported by the board of directors, who take on work when she is unavailable.
“I’m always in [MSU vice president (Education) Ryan Deshpande]’s office. He’s always available either in person or via Facebook Messenger, so that’s really great. I can rant to him about meetings that didn’t go my way,” said Bertolo. “[MSU president Chukky Ibe]’s also a really great help, and we really act as a team.”
Bertolo also often faces challenges when trying to dispel stereotypes the community holds about McMaster students.
“One of the main challenges is dealing with the rhetoric around students. A lot of people will start saying ‘I’m not anti-student but…’ and then say things that are anti-student and trying to communicate why these things are wrong and the perceptions people have of students are often not complete,” she said.
Bertolo is excited to see what future associate vice presidents will do with their role and how her role in particular will shape local politics.
“The [municipal] election’s coming up, which is exciting! The community likes to go on and on about how [students] don’t vote and I think this could be the year that we do,” she said.
The next batch of associate vice presidents will be hired sometime in second semester.